My advice for studying an Executive MBA

26 January 2023

Executive MBA participant, Mark Giblin, shares his advice on how you can make the most out of the programme.

I know what you are thinking, another blog from an MBA participant telling you how great, straightforward and smooth their MBA journey was and how they have landed on their feet achieving a promotion or a seat around the c-suite table – well it is not. This blog is to give you an insight into how not all MBA experiences are ‘textbook success’, but how the programme teaches you something richer and more valuable, helping you to build your resilience to support your performance and success in the future.

There have been four distinctive elements that, as an Executive MBA participant at Warwick Business School (WBS), have been incredibly beneficial to a working professional, husband, and parent with little time to spare.

  1. Trusting the learning process: Pace & Persistence.

It is important to get off to a good start and keep up with the first few modules to get familiar with your cohort – believe it or not these people are invaluable as friends, colleagues and teachers. You will learn to lean on each other, through tough group assignments or just general working advice. However, remember the real reasons why you are doing this MBA in the first place – to better yourself and equip yourself with the tools to become a Change Maker that welcomes diversity, collaboration and cooperation. Therefore, it is important that you take time to learn and absorb the key models, theories and multiple lenses so that you are then able to lead and educate work colleagues outside the MBA. The WBS team have been very supportive in helping me keep on track, but to also weigh up decisions to delay core modules and select my electives. To be honest, the personal approach they apply throughout is invaluable and really allows young/new working parents the flexibility and reassurance that a top European business school supports and is invested in their success.

  1. Appreciate the emotional cycle of change.

You will no doubt have some serious highs and some lows throughout what I can only describe as an epic journey! My advice would be to understand what you, as an individual, need to do to be in the best frame of mind when attending lectures. Don’t stop being you – it is important that you stay fit and healthy and mentally in a good place. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so make sure you keep doing things to keep you in the best headspace to make the most of lectures, 1-2-1s or group calls.

A piece of advice is to define or scope out what success realistically looks like to you and keep that in mind when attending. For example, don’t be afraid to speak up and challenge (appropriately); complement cohort members for good points and remain curious. Finally, we have two ears and one mouth – use this in proportion!

  1. Establish a Support Network.

When you embark on the MBA journey your analytical, leadership and emotional intelligence lens develops and strengthens; however, it does not come without hard work, patience and sometimes admitting that you can’t have a superpower for everything. It is about respecting and learning from those around you to build a network for the future. Everyone has a unique learning style, embrace that and do not fear if it takes multiple goes to understand or apply something. The worst thing you can do is to compare yourself to others in the cohort. Learn from them, celebrate their success and share ideas, to reinforce the learning process and remove bias.

Establishing a support network outside the MBA classroom is also critical. For me, it consisted of my two best mates, my parents and my wife. They quickly remind you why you are doing this and encourage you that you can do this! Spend quality time with them and remind yourself that you have an amazing opportunity to learn, but also thanks to these people, you are driving forward and setting yourself up for success.

I am grateful for the amazing lecturers and support staff in developing my interest in innovation and creativity in organisations, creating sustainable organisations and how to effectively manage organisational performance. The energy and time invested by these people was fantastic and top-class. If you treat these lecturers as colleagues and respect them for their great research and work that they have done, you can build and establish great mentors or channels of support in future working scenarios. I believe that we as leaders today have a responsibility to step up and open up in order to drive organisations into focusing on the triple bottom line, driving social and environmental capital improvements. The Executive MBA has certainly given me the toolkit and confidence to have those critical conversations with colleagues, senior managers and board members.

My decision to study the Executive MBA at WBS has been a life-changing decision. It has enabled me to understand and work out where my passions and interests lie. Let’s be frank, the work has been difficult to balance, but worth every minute of time and effort. As I continue my academic journey with the completion of my dissertation in spring of 2023/4, my final bit of advice would be to be kind to yourself! You are doing an amazing thing – balancing reality, family, work pressures and working on becoming the best version of yourself – this in itself is truly inspirational and worth reminding yourself about! You’ve got this!


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